Berlin's Sparkling Festival of Lights

Winter has arrived early in Germany this year, and as the days get shorter, what's better than to throw a little light on some of Berlin's best-known landmarks and monuments to brighten up the city.

For the next two weeks Berlin visitors and locals can admire the city's famous sites and historic landmarks illuminated in a variety of brilliant colors and shades, all part of the fifth annual Berlin Festival of Lights.

"We want to show a different face of the city," said Siegfried Helias, spokesman for City Stiftung Berlin, the non government organization organizing the festival. "And we want people to see the things they are used to with 'new eyes'. It's a little bit like dreaming with open eyes ."

SLIDESHOW: Festival of Lights: Berlin

Helias emphasized that the money for the festival comes from private sponsors -- average Berliners and Berlin-based companies -- who support the event with generous donations.

Asked about how much money it takes to finance the spectacle, Helias said, "We don't talk about money. Money only destroys dreams."

For the next two weeks some 56 streets, historical monuments and famous landmarks will be lit up in exciting colors every day from 7 p.m. to midnight.

The world-famous Brandenburg Gate will shine after a purple phosphorescent makeover, and festival organizers are holding a competition whereby visitors can have their name and a message shone onto the monument.

The well-known Unter den Linden boulevard, the Berlin Cathedral and the concert hall at Gendarmen Markt are also among the spectacular highlights featured during the Festival of Lights.

Christian Tänzler, spokesman of the Berlin Tourism board, says that more than 1 million visitors enjoy the festival each year.

"We're getting super positive reactions from all over the world, people are just fascinated by this orgy of illumination and colors. Some tour operators from abroad are planning their tours to include the Festival of Lights, it's become quite an event."

Berlin's Week of Cultural Events

A variety of cultural events coincide with the festival, including late night openings at museums and galleries on Oct. 17. A week later, on Oct. 24, people are invited to join a night running race on a route that will take competitors past the illuminated Victory Column, the Brandenburg Gate and Berlin Cathedral.

Also offered are also "light-seeing" tours by boat, bus or bike, and there will be a photo competition with the best pictures of the illuminated sites to be shown at an exhibition in Berlin after the event.

The Festival of Light concludes on Oct. 25.